A Paper presented at National Federation of
Telecom Employees (BSNL) Seminar
held at Jammu on August 6, 2003
- Background Note On Workers Movement
Historical Origin Of The Working Class
And Its Trade Union (TU) Movement
The term working class in general denotes all those who sell their physical or mental
power (capacity) in lieu of wages or salary and thus make a living. No exact estimate exists
of the total number of all categories of workers in the world. But a rough calculation
suggests that it is more than 50 percent.
In simple terms, the term worker has been in vogue since the early human history. The
various historical systemic forms of labour can be described as clan, tribal, feudal and
capitalist labour. The various socio-economic categories of labour are often termed as
slave, serf (agricultural) and wage-labour (industrial, contract, casual, etc.).
Modern Wage Labour And Its TU Movement
Taking up the historical development of the modern wage labour, it began to appear in
the later part of the 18th century. Thus, Workers TU movement began to take shape in the
early 19th century. By the term TU is generally meant an association of’ the members (or
workers) of a trade for the protection and enhancement of their rights (generally described
by TUs as struggle for better living and working conditions).
Historical Role Of The TU Movement—
Its Positive And Negative Sides
Since its origin, the TU movement has played a positive role for the workers in particular
and the working people in general. Its positive role may, in brief, include:
• Widening of the human vision by uniting workers of different races, religions, nations,
nationalities, cultural groups, etc., into one union.
• Enabling workers to achieve a number of rights for all the working people, namely: (i)
workers right to unite in one union, (ii) right to strike and collective bargaining, (iii) increase
in wages and salaries, (iv) reduction in working hours, (v) prohibition of child-labour and
employment of minors, (vi) maternity leave for working women, (vii) social security for
working people in matter of housing facilities, sickness benefits, child-care centres, factory
canteens, ventilation system, safety measures, insurance advantages, holiday homes,
health-care centres, labour welfare schemes, etc.
Today, trade unionism has become a general approach of functioning and organising of
all trades and occupations, i.e., peasants, middle strata, businessmen and even the big
capitalists and monopolists—thus universalising the TU role and place in society.
Notwithstanding its numerous achievements, the TU movement has also been marked by
some weaknesses. These are:
• The TU leaders and activists are generally allied with established political parties which
use the workers for their political purposes.
• The politically dominated TUs lay more emphasis on individual problems of its members
than the more important task of raising workers social consciousness, in general, and
providing them legal education about the laws and rules concerning workers in each
country, in particular.
• The politically dominated TUs are marked or influenced by certain leftist and rightist
one-sided concepts, such as:
the leftist concepts of working class as the sole liberator of mankind; labour and capital
as antagonistic forces; management as always anti-labour; workers to have concern only
with their demands and not with their productivity; workers to care for brave (demagogic)
leaders, ignoring their irrational behaviour.
the rightist practice of organising the TUs on casteist, communal and sectarian lines and
making the unions docile to the management.
II. Emergence Of A New Global Era,
State Of The Working Class
And Challenges Confronting It
Emergence Of A New Global Era
In recent times, the human world (including the working class) on our planet earth has
become one unit, both mentally and physically, due to the development of human mental
inter-action at the speed of light and the physical mutual connection at the supersonic
speed. The unprecedented human mental and physical action-reaction has integrated the
varying nation-states into a loose and vague type of single formation. This new development
has immediately been seized upon by the leaders of the existing world corporate system
(mostly comprising developed countries in general and the US in particular) to extend and
tighten their grip over the world human and material-environmental means and to increase
their financial wealth at the highest possible rate by overusing and mishandling, both the
environmental and human resources which already stand at the rock-bottom due to their
200-year misuse by the corporate (previous industrial or capitalist) leaders. Thus, while the
human community was pondering over the implications of the new phenomena of
globalisation, a highly dangerous and deadly environmental-human crisis has engulfed it.
Present State Of Working Class
The recent onslaught launched by the corporate leaders on human resources is, firstly
and mainly, directed against the working class, but the latter itself does not appear in a
confident mood. According to a UN-related ILO report (2000), the level of anxiety, burnout
and depression among the workers are going out of control. Downsizing, layoffs, mergers,
short-term contracts and higher productivity demands have all exacted their toll in the last
10 years, leaving many workers frazzled and on the verge of a nervous break-down.
Why are the world workers so depressed as to appear on the verge of a nervous breakdown.?
It is a common knowledge that when one could not understand the exact nature of
the challenge (or problem) threatening his livelihood, its cause and solution, one naturally
finds no future for him and inevitably gets depressed and feels to be on the verge of a
nervous breakdown. Briefly, it means that the working class, especially its TU movement,
and the labour related new global institutions, like the ILO, have no answers to the
challenges now confronting workers and merely go on parroting old formulas, lacking
conformity with the new reality and its demands.
Main Challenges Facing The Working Class In India
(As Well As In Other Countries)
The first fundamental problem confronting the Indian labour has been the question of
labour’s servile position (and common people’s low priority) in relation to capital (or capitalowner)
in all spheres (economic, political and cultural) of Indian systemic order. This
problem exists all over the world and thus also needs a global answer. The other global
problems include: the processes of liberalisation, privatisation, WTO, IMF, WB, etc.
The other fundamental problems are: worsening environmental unsustainability,
increasing human inequality, poverty, unemployment, violence, criminalisation, political
corruption, etc., communal and casteist confrontation, female oppression, etc.
The day to day problems (old and new) faced by the Indian labour include: the problem of
low wage in all sphere of work, unorganised urban labour, agricultural labour, casual
workers or daily wagers, bonded labour, the revision of labour laws, the existence of child
labour, gender inequality in relation to wages, litigation, the provision of free legal aid, and
the workers low health and diseases.
Main Problems Faced By
Jammu & Kashmir Workers
The main problems faced by Jammu & Kashmir workers are: ongoing militancy, mess in
the public sector industries, lack of capital investment, mounting unemployment and
poverty, uncertainty racing the casual and the daily wagers, increasing hardships of the
unorganised labour (both rural and urban), etc.
Basic Cause Of The Workers Fundamental
As Well As Day To Day Problems
The above-stated cause rests with the two faulty approaches or the prevailing two wrong
theories of capital—(a) The free market-led western liberal economics, and (b) the statedirected
Marxian economics. The major formulations of the above-said 2 theories are as
• Both the liberal and the Marxian theories regard capital as the most precious thing in
society. This is obvious from the fact that the adherents of both these theories measure
social prosperity and progress in terms of the growth rate of capital and of the per capita
and total growth of the volume of capital. Every liberal and Marxist government in the world
(i.e., the governments of all countries) follow the above principle. The global character of
these 2 theories, both ideologically and administratively, provides every human the
motivation of capital (or money)-maximisation. The universal character of every person’s
motive of wealth perpetuation totally ignores the social side of human community and thus
turns it into a sub-human herd where everyone lives for oneself and none for all.
• Both theories present a one-sided definition of the nature of humankind. While the
corporate concept identifies “man as selfish by nature” (as formulated by Adam Smith, the
father of free market economics), the Marxian concept characterises man as social in
character. Both ignore the real nature of man who, having been a bio-social phenomenon,
bears a 2-sided basic feature, i.e., social as well as individual.
• Both theories misrepresent the real producer of capital. While the Marxian concept
defines capital as the workers surplus value, i.e., the excess value produced by the worker
(as appropriated by the capitalist) during the course of his work over his paid wages, or in
other words, the worker produces more value during his fixed work time than his wages
which (i.e., the excess value produced by the worker) is taken away by the capitalist.
Contrary to this, the liberal theory shrewdly identifies it as the contribution of capital,
technology, labour and raw materials, all of which do not themselves yield anything until
they are utilised during the production process as organised by the capitalists. Thus, while
the Marxian concept singles out worker as the creator of capital, the capitalist one projects
the capitalist as its generator.
• Both theories distort the capital management process. While the capitalist theory makes
the capitalist as the sole authority to administer and control the process of capital
generation, the Marxian theory entrusts this task to the state (i.e., comprising the politicians
and the bureaucrats), denying any right and any role to the workers and the common people
in the management and control of the capital generation process.
• Both theories assign a subordinate position to labour in the control of capital.
• Both theories hold the attainment of political power as their immediate as well as the
permanent task, because, the political power acts as the main tool in the process of money
Supplementary Reasons Of Labour Problems
The various supplementary reasons comprise many distorted and one-sided concepts
and practices followed by different brands of politicians, trade union leaders, promoters of
new and old fundamentalist ideas and corporate practitioners. These, in brief, are: ‘working
class as the sole liberator of humankind in modern times’; ‘labour and capital as antagonistic
forces’; ‘management as always anti-labour’; ‘workers to concern only with their demands
and not with productivity’; ‘need of brave TU leaders who shout at the big company bosses’;
‘TUs to be affiliated to political parties’; ‘TUs to lay more emphasis on individual problems’;
‘TUs to be formed on religious and casteist agendas’; etc.
Wrong Theories Of Capital Provide
A Mistaken Labour Or TU Strategy
The two fundamental theories of capital along with the supplementary reasons provide a
wrong understanding of capital, i.e., the supreme position of money (or finance) capital in
human society. This premise diverts the labour movement as a whole and its various TUs
towards chalking out a wrong strategy that generally emphasises: (a) a wrong perspective
that accepts capital as the highest phenomenon of the human world; (b) a wrong main issue
that accepts the secondary position of labour in relation to capital; (c) a wrong principal task
that projects the domination of capital; (d) a wrong work-style that makes the workers docile
to the TU leaders; and (e) an organisational form that boosts union rivalry on political or
personal basis and encourages divisions among the workers.
Obviously, the afore-mentioned two wrong theories of capital particularly their human
motivational effect, and the above-stated improper labour or TU strategy were bound to lead
to some serious trouble for human society. This trouble has now manifested itself in the
form of an environmental-human crisis in the world, on the one hand, and depression and
demoralisation within the international labour or TU movement, on the other.
III. Question Of Setting Matters Right In Regard To
Defining A Realistic Theory Of Capital
And Laying Down A Proper Labour Or TU Strategy
Coming to the last, but most important point, the question now before us is how to set
matters right in regard to defining a realistic theory of capital and laying down a proper
strategy for labour or TU movement. Our humble opinion is that the Nature-Human Centric
Theory presents the true picture of capital in all its essentials and this provides us the clue
to chalk out a proper strategy concerning labour or TU movement.
Nature-Human Centric Theory of Capital
The above-mentioned theory firmly holds that the capital comprises a two-sided
phenomenon, i.e., the environmental resources, on the one hand, and the human
resources, on the other. This is, because the environment and human resources constitute
the very life of human community and, without them, nothing has any value for humankind.
Thus, it firmly rejects the concept of capital as being money (or finance) capital. And even
the money (or finance) capital is also generated by these two resources, united in the form
of human mental and physical labour plus natural raw materials and technological tools.
Obviously, all the ingredients of capital—labour, technology and raw materials—are
provided by environmental and human resources. Money represents only a medium of
exchange or a tool of the market. However, this highly important function does not entitle it
for the status of the supreme thing (i.e., capital) in society.
It maintains that man is a bio-social phenomenon who combines in himself two integrated
qualities—individual and social—with each having its own utility. To split these two qualities
is to distort the rational reality of humankind—that should always lead to disaster. The
ongoing environmental-human crisis is also due to the prevailing one-sided human
approach and motivation.
It regards that the prosperity and progress in human society can only be measured in
terms of environmental conservation and promotion and the continuously rising level of
human mental and material welfare. This aim can be achieved by adopting a development
model that strictly follows five main principles in its practice, i.e., environmental
sustainability, equity (fair equality), productivity (growth or higher profit), transparency and
democracy in all types of social activities, thus ending the existence of any privilege or
special right in every process. It ends the misappropriation and wastage of about 40 percent
of world financial resources through political and business corruption, violations of the rule
of law and human rights, criminalisation, etc. It estimates that the financial savings made by
eradicating privilege, monopoly, corruption, violence and crime can yield enough funds as
can guarantee necessary and reasonable social security as a fundamental right to nearly 50
percent deprived (including the poor below the poverty line, poor and marginal peasants,
middle class unemployed and similar other sections) of the world. To establish an equitable
order, it maintains that the income difference in human society should be in the ratio of 1:5.
The nature-human centric theory of capital considers that both the corporate and the
government-led models be de-monopolised and restructured by taking following steps:
• All shares in the public limited companies be made ordinary shares. No one be allowed
to own more than 2 percent of these shares. However, the state may, in special cases, be
allowed to own one-fourth of ordinary shares. The rule of promoters shares (now prevalent
in the corporate sector) be totally abrogated.
• The management of the public limited companies be made fully democratic. In this
respect, the ordinary shareholders be given two-third representation in the management
board. The remaining one-third representation be reserved for the concerned labour of a
given company. The labour representatives be elected by both the blue and the white colour
workers, having the same rights as enjoyed by the representatives coming from the ordinary
• The undertakings in which the government holds one-fourth of ordinary shares, the
representatives of all the shareholders in the management board be in the following order:
ordinary share holders 50 percent, labour 33 percent, government 17 percent.
• The management board be elected for a period of 3 years.
• The above-mentioned democratic sector of the Nature-Human Centric development
model will be far more productive (may be twice) in contrast to both the monopolistic
corporate and state-run sectors. The reason for the former’s (i.e., the democratic sector’s)
high growth-rate (or rate of wealth production) lies in its (i.e., Nature-Human Centric
model’s) greatly developed human and environmental resources due to its ensuring of
equitable incomes with only 1:5 difference and of social security for everyone in all walks of
life as a fundamental right; its fundamental principle holding people and environment as its
main priorities; its adherence to global peace and security; politics of peoples empowerment
(particularly of women, workers and scientists-technologists) from the village to the UN level
and all other economic, financial and trading global institutions; its realistic and rational
economics and its culture of human and environmental values.
• As to the unviability of the government-led sector, it can be seen from the collapse of
the former Soviet Union and the discarding of this model by the erstwhile socialist countries
in the world. The ineffectiveness of the corporate sector can also be seen from the
continuously rising graph of inequality, poverty, hunger, unemployment, houselessness and
above all, the continuing unsustainable environmental crisis (now occurring hither and then
thither), the world over.
• The increasing demand and role of the community (or public) control or management
over the environmental & human issues shows the direction in which the human society is
The corporate sector’s newly-adopted stance of the philosophy of social accountability
and ethical behaviour too reflects the unworkability of the corporate sector’s fundamental
theory of laissez-faire which despises every social consideration in the economic
development process (whose sole purpose is to maximise personal profit).
Turning to the widely known concepts of liberalisation, privatisation and restructuring
which essentially serve the corporate sector, these may be responded to by presenting
peoples co-operative initiatives related to the model of sustainable development.
As regards the global trade and financial institutions (i.e., WTO, IMF and WB), the
extremist demand of their closure should be substituted by the rational demand that these
institutions should adopt the objective of sustainable developmental in place of their present
corporate developmental objective.
Coming to the question of challenges facing Jammu & Kashmir’s working class, a
realistic wayout lies in resolving the contention over Jammu & Kashmir’s future between
India, Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir people. Here, a conciliatory formula, reconciling the
interests of India, Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir people, cannot only serve the interests of
the three parties involved, but also help in sorting out Jammu & Kashmir workers’ concerns.
Labour or TU Strategy
The nature-human centric theory of capital enables the labour or TU movement to
formulate a correct strategy that sorts out:
• A correct perspective, holding people and environment as its top priorities;
• A realistic main issue, demanding an end to labour subordination and the establishment
of an equality between the work force and the management;
• A correct main task, embodying a 3-sided integrated activity: (a) to enhance the workers
social consciousness by raising their political, economic, legal (concerning labour
legislation) and cultural levels; (b) to strive for the democratic functioning of the TUs; and (c)
to unite the workers on the basis of their immediate and the long-term demands in
conformity with the norm of one project-one union, such as NFTE BSNL in BSNL
A democratic work-style, emphasising the leaderships accountability to the workers in
thought and action; the workers and the management’s accountability to the people; the
charter of demands to be reasonable and prepared in consultation with the people; TU work
to be carried out daily to maintain close contact with the workers; to uphold democratic
norms in TU functioning; to patiently listen to every worker and to strive to know his
personal, family and office problems and to organise regular general meetings of the
And an organisational form, stressing the need for maximum possible unity among the
workers by acting on the principle of one undertaking-one union. Wherever one-union
principle is not practicable immediately, efforts should be made to unite all the existing
unions into a united front on the basis of a common minimum programme. 01-08-